Small-business owners have a lot to do, and often not a lot of time to do it. Even with all hands on deck, it can be a struggle to keep pace with the everyday demands of being an independent entrepreneur. So when your business finds itself on the receiving end of a flood of emails, it can feel overwhelming.
Staying on top of customer correspondence is important: It can be the difference between a loyal client or an angry former customer. Unfortunately, even the most reasonable customer may be a bit miffed at not receiving a response to an email query. To keep emails from slipping through the cracks, follow these tips:
"Staying on top of customer correspondence is important."
Identify the reason for the influx
Has your store received a positive review or write-up? Is an item or service you provide being talked about by a celebrity? Has an upcoming sale piqued the interest of the larger public? There are countless reasons why there might be a sudden spike in interest, so identifying the root of it will help you develop a plan to address comments and concerns. This can be done by using an online search for your business, by identifying common themes in the queries or by employing more advanced online analytics to look for mentions of your business.
Address major issues
Unfortunately, there can be a variety of negative reasons why you are getting bombarded by emails. From an insult or bad review gone-viral, to your email account having been hacked or targeted for spam, you may need to go into damage control in some capacity. If this is the case, focus efforts on information-gathering and addressing the issue so that, when you can respond to customers, you can be transparent about how you've handles it.
Use an autoresponder
If no answer is taken negatively by customers, an autoresponder can be an adequate half-measure to assure them that their email has been received and will be answered in time. Keep the automated response pleasant, be sure to thank the customer for reaching out and give them an estimate for how long it typically takes to get back to them with a personalized answer.
Keep answers short
When you finally get a chance to respond to customers, try to keep answers limited to a few sentences, answering questions directly and as best you can. Many customers aren't looking for a lengthy response and will appreciate candor and succinctness. Even if you can't fully get into their query, a short "Received your email, will reply at length shortly" will suffice until you have the time.
Some emails may be more pressing than others. Most email clients have filtering options where you can have certain messages automatically sent to a separate folder based on criteria like the address the email is coming from, or words used.